CULTURE/ALT-XMAS At some point this December, my holiday spirit failed to launch. It’s strange in a way — I love gluttony, formal wear, time with loved ones, and the Latino church procession I saw going down South Van Ness Avenue the other day gave me a little shiver of happiness (not to mention the purple lights bedecking kink.com’s Armory). But I just don’t want to do the tree, the presents, the pressure. Really, this list of Xmas week alternative activities is for me as much as anyone, which I hope means I still get to do the mistletoe thing.
OPTION ONE: HEAD FOR THE HILLS
You ain’t got shit to do, so why not take your melancholy and foist it on nature? The recent spate of rain may make for a wet winter wonderland, but that should suit misanthropes just fine. Wear your best raincoat and mittens and you’ll be snug as the baby JC in his manger.
Where to go? The No. 76 Muni bus can get you to the Marin Headlands Recreational Area (remember, the buses run on the holiday-Sunday schedule on the 25th , check www.511.org for times) where foul weather makes for thrilling, wind-whipping hikes about the hills to the north of Golden Gate Bridge. Or you can take advantage of the greenery within city limits. Glen Canyon Park’s many trails are an excellent place to wait out the tinsel and treacle, as are the startlingly beautiful red rocks jutting out over the city in Corona Heights Park and the idiosyncratic bison paddock in Golden Gate Park.
Bonus round: get your conservation on the day after Christmas in Muir Woods with a free hike called “Get Your Spawn On: Searching for Endangered Salmon.” The hike will take you on a hunt for salmonids and reveals how we can help the fishies swim their way back into species security. (Meets at Muir Woods Dipsea Trail Trailhead, Mill Valley. (415) 349-5787, www.wildequity.org. 10 a.m.–noon, free with $5 park entrance fee)
OPTION TWO: GET A LITTLE CULTCHA IN YA
Sure, many of our venerable cultural institutions stay away from organizing events over the holiday weekend. But with only a small amount of searching, you can dig up the brave souls who see no reason to halt their arty trot on account of jingle bells. These include Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which will be celebrating Dec. 24 with part one of its two-part exhibition “Audience as Subject,” a multimedia exploration of crowd behavior. Filmmaker Stefan Constantinescu will screen Troleibuzul 92 (2009), an examination of reactions to a planted actor on a crowded bus making abusive phone calls to his “girlfriend,” and visual and video artists investigate variations on the theme. (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2700, www.ybca.org. Noon, $7.)
If self scrutiny’s not your jam, head to the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Christmas Day, where free admission all day means that you can save your bones for New Year Eve’s and still check out the work of H.A. Rey and Margret Rey, the husband and wife who created Curious George. The couple just barely managed to smuggle the early sketches of George (and themselves) in their escape from the Nazi invasion of Paris, which they accomplished by bicycle. The drama might explain George’s penchant for close calls and saving the day. Kind of makes that cycling slog through this week’s foul weather seem less onerous, no? (Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF; (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.org. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
OPTION THREE: GET IT ON FILM
Going to the movies on Christmas has long been the treasured territory of awkward family gatherings, and with the mega-release of Tron: Legacy (playing at various Bay Area theaters) you can take it to the third dimension! Why talk about each others’ lives when you can plop down in the Castro Theatre with a tub of popcorn, affix 3-D glasses to your face and zone … out … for two hours and seven minutes? Hell, you can even skip the fam-fam and bring your girl Mary Jane, because this is one flick that promises to look real cool with a side of herb — soundtrack, acting, and plot notwithstanding.
And there’s no need to be a lonely anime geek by the Christmas tree. Bebop Nights, the recurring get-together of cult classic TV show Cowboy Bebop fans is holding its sixth installment Dec. 25, a day stereotypically characterized by animated features with way, way less cooler characters. Sure, Rudolph and Frosty are bulbous and ebullient, but Spike, Vicious, and Julie are deep space bounty hunters with a penchant for dope background music. Which cast better characterizes your lump of coal attitude this yuletide? (Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary, SF; (415) 668-6384, www.landmarktheaters.com. Midnight–3 a.m., suggested donation $4)
Other promising showings include Natalie Portman’s psycho-ballet thriller, Black Swan, camp of the year Burlesque, the Coen brothers’ remake of the western True Grit, and Naomi Watts as CIA agent Valerie Plame in Fair Game.
OPTION FOUR: DRINK
And when all else fails, raise a glass to (and of, see how that works?) booze. Many of your watering hole favorites will be open Christmas Eve and day, but why not try on a new barstool and pack of regulars for size? My pick for caroling into the bottom of your glass is Trad’r Sam (6150 Geary, SF; (415) 221-0733. Open noon–late), a kick-ass Outer Richmond tiki bar where I am cautioned that a solo scorpion bowl mission will result in the ability to see reindeers, unless that’s what you’re going for. To make your Christmas denial complete, keep one eye on the jukebox, and your clobbering stick handy for any poor schlub who opts for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.”